Bolton Valley, VT 09NOV2019

An image of the Vista Peak area of Bolton Valley taken from near the Wilderness midstation after an early November snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image showing some snowmaking taking place in early November at the main base of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A bit of early season snowmaking going on at the main base area today

The end of the week brought our first significant snowfall to lower elevations here in Northern Vermont, with a couple inches accumulating in most valleys by Friday morning from the initial passing of the cold front.  Friday continued to bring additional snow however, with another 5 inches coming down at our house during the morning in the span of just a few hours.  By the time the system had wrapped up on Saturday morning, we’d accumulated over 7 inches at the house and the yard had been transformed from stick season into winter.

The local ski resorts hadn’t picked up too much more than we had, but totals in the 6 to 10” range seemed typical, and that was certainly enough to entice me out for some early season turns.  With that in mind, this morning I decided to head up to Bolton Valley to get in a ski tour and check out the new snow.  With the fairly fluffy nature of the snow and based on what we’ve seen at the house over the past couple of days, I’m sure there had been some settling since it fell, but here’s the snow depth/elevation profile of what I found from the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road up to the local summit areas:

340’:  1-2”
1,000’:  2-3”
1,500’:  3-4”
2,000’:  4-6”
2,500’:  6-7”
3,000’:  7-9”

I started my ski tour around midday, when temperatures were just edging a bit above freezing at our house down in the valley, but above 1,500’, and certainly above 2,000’, temperatures never got above freezing so the snow was all winter consistency.

In terms of the skiing, it was undoubtedly early season, and rock skis would be your best bet if you’re going on anything with substantial pitch.  I actually found the skiing better on the lower half of the mountain because there was a bit of a base there – I think more of the snow down in those elevations was melting on contact with the ground to create that dense layer.  Up higher, the consistency of the snow was more straight fluff from top to bottom.  As is often the case, most water bars had reasonable crossings at least at one point, but a few were dicey and took some extra navigation.  There’s still running water in plenty of spots, and ponding in some flat areas.  On my descent it was obvious that my skis got in contact with at least traces of that moisture, because about halfway down I had to pull out a credit card and spend probably 10 minutes doing a scrape down on the ski bases to really get things back in shape for gliding.

That effort was worth it though, because for the bottom half of my run I was on Lower Turnpike, and that offered what was unquestionably the best skiing of the tour.  The combination of that bit of dense snow that accumulated as some base down in those elevations, plus some skier traffic packing down areas of the new snow as well, clearly created the best subsurfaces I encountered.  On top of that you’ve got the fact that Lower Turnpike is essentially all grassy terrain, and it has a pitch that isn’t really overbearing for the amount of snowpack we’ve got, and it comes together for real winning combination.  Even with some skier traffic, there was still plenty of powder to play around in throughout the trail, so that was a great way to finish off my run.

An image of drifted snow atop some of the condominiums near the base of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont after an early November snowstorm
Enjoying the wintry views at the end of my tour as drifted snow adorns some of the condos by the base of the Wilderness Lift

For anyone heading up, you may still want to hit the summit areas to check things out and get the exercise from a more substantial tour, but if you’re just looking to get out from some quality turns, Lower Turnpike is probably going to get you the most bang for your buck.  It’s one of the designated ascent routes anyway, so there’s a nice skin track and it’s an efficient way to in some nice turns on the new snow.

I just got an alert on my phone this morning that we’re under a Winter Storm Watch in association with the next system.  This one looks more substantial than this past one, but we’re still a day or two out so we’ll need to watch for any final refinements to the forecast.

First snows of the season for the Green Mountains

A radar image showing moisture streaming into the Green Mountains of Vermont and producing snow along the peaks in mid October
A radar image showing moisture streaming into the Green Mountains of Vermont and producing snow along the peaks in mid October
A look at the local Burlington weather radar from today showing the classic upslope signature of moisture streaming into the Green Mountains from the northwest and snow/mixed precipitation along the peaks.

Although we did have some reports of frozen precipitation around the area back in the beginning of the month, the bombing cyclone that’s moved through New England over the past couple of days has brought the first real snows of the season to the Green Mountains.  As the system moved by yesterday, the summit areas of Killington picked up an inch or two of snow.  There wasn’t much going on with respect to snowfall in the northern part of Vermont at that point, but snow levels finally dropped overnight and we started to see accumulations in the higher elevations around here.  Although I wasn’t out in the mountains today, the view from my office in Burlington showed that classic look of upslope precipitation along the spine of the Northern Greens.  A quick check on the local radar showed that classic signature of moisture streaming into the spine of the Greens, with snow and mixed precipitation along the peaks.  Powderfreak sent in pictures to the Northern New England thread at the American Weather Forums, revealing snow accumulations down to roughly 2,400’ at the Gondola, and a couple of inches of accumulation at the top of the Fourrunner Quad.  At the end of the day, Powderfreak passed along one more photo that showed accumulating snow levels at around 2,300’ at the Gondola, and commented on how snow levels were somewhat lower on that part of the mountain below The ChinWinter’s first salvo of snow is now in the books, and we may see a bit more near the end of the month based on what the weather models are showing for that period.

Looking back at the start of the 2018-2019 ski season in Vermont – Mt. Mansfield snowpack depth and historical comparative analysis.

This plot uses the 60+ year snow depth data set from the measurement stake on Mt. Mansfield in Vermont to indicate the date when the snowpack first reaches 24 inches of depth each season.

One approximate measure of when the potential natural snow/off piste skiing begins each season here in Northern Vermont is the date when the snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake reaches 24 inches.  This is by no means an exact date, especially since it’s possible to get great turns on just a few inches of snow if the snow is dense and the underlying surface is grass instead of rocks.  You can indeed get by with much less than 24 inches of snowpack if the snow is very dense, but not if it’s all Champlain Powder™ fluff.  Based on empirical observations and reports from skiers in the area each season though, hitting the 24” mark is reasonable for most situations.

With that preface, let’s take a look at where last season sits with regard the start of the natural snow/off piste skiing around here.  By most accounts, last season started off with bang.  Even in the local mountain valleys, the winter snowpack started as early as November 10th.  That’s very early for the valleys, and when the valleys are doing well, the mountains certainly are too.

The updated plot for the 60+ seasons in the Mt. Mansfield Stake database is below, with last season represented by the red star:

This plot uses the 60+ year snow depth data set from the measurement stake on Mt. Mansfield in Vermont to indicate the date when the snowpack first reaches 24 inches of depth each season.
The updated plot showing the date of reaching 24-inches of snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake. The point for the 2018-2019 winter season (November 27th, 2018) is indicated by the red star.

Before I add a bit of context to last season’s start, here are the stats for the data set:

n:  64
Mean:  Dec 12th
Median:  Dec 9th
Mode:  Dec 16th
S.D.:  18.8 days

Entry of this year’s data point had no effect on the mean, mode, or S.D. (within a tenth of a day), but it did drop the median by one day from Dec 10th to Dec 9th.

The plot would suggest a reasonably good start, but nothing outrageous:  last year’s 24” date was Nov 27th, which is only 0.78 S.D. ahead of the mean, so well within 1 S.D.  That puts it in roughly the top 22% of seasons, so about 1 in 5 seasons will have a similar or earlier 24” date.

While the 24” date is a nice snapshot for the start of the natural/off piste season, there are of course a number of other factors to take into account that made last November more impressive than that number alone:

1) Near miss:  If you look at the raw November stake depth data (posted below), you can see that the snow depth at the stake reached 23” on Nov 21st.  That’s as close of a miss as you can get to hitting 24”, so even as of the 21st of the month, the snowpack had essentially hit that two-foot level.  Getting to that level by the 21st brings a season past 1 S.D. and into that top ~15% of seasons.  That’s not a huge bump in this regard, but having nearly an extra week of borderline two-foot snowpack at that part of the season could easily mean an entire additional weekend of natural snow skiing potential.

2) No going back:  This is a much bigger feather in last season’s cap.  Even from about mid-month, the snowpack never really took a major hit, and once it did hit that 24” mark on Nov 27th, there was really no going back.  It sailed past 24” and just kept climbing as you can see in the numbers at the end of the month.  I haven’t added the December numbers below, but even with the lackluster December we had, the snowpack never dropped below ~40”.  That can’t be said for all of the seasons on the left side of the plot (certainly not Mr. October out there in front, which was the 2006-2007 season – he was back to 0” at the stake by mid-November).

3) Snow-depth days:  I haven’t calculated this for any November with the stake data, but it will obviously be a good integrative measure of how much snow was on the ground for the start of the season.  I’m sure last November would have a solid ranking if I put those data together.

So, if we look into that left side of the plot, do we have any other recent seasons in there that we can use for comparison to last season?

Actually, that lone star (Nov 25th) just to the left of the red star for last season is for 2007-2008.  We know that was a solid season around here.  The snowpack began building in the first week of November, and there was really no going back there either.  Unlike this past season, that solid November was followed up by a stellar December (almost 70” of snow here at the house) and the Mansfield snowpack was hitting five feet by the holidays.  With a solid December, last season certainly would have given 2007-2008 a run, but instead it was languishing at around 40” at the stake during the holiday period.

With regard to some of the other stars up at that end of the plot:

The two compatriots of last season on the plot, those other two stars on Nov 27th, are 1997-1998 and 1977-1978.  1997-1998 looks pretty solid with a snowpack start in the first week of November, and snowpack at about that five-foot mark by the holiday period.  There’s also a nice-looking bonus stretch of snow at the end of October, with snow at the stake for almost the last third of the month, and the depth peaking at 16”.  Checking my archives, I actually went for some lift-served skiing at Sugarbush on Oct 28th, so that speaks to that period snow being a bit of something special.  1977-1978 was before my time around here, but it looks a bit tamer.  There was nothing in October, then snowpack began to build around mid-November and was getting around the four-foot mark by the holidays.

The two stars right at Nov 20th are interestingly, back-to-back seasons of 1967-1968 and 1968-1969.  Both had a little October snow, and then a snowpack start in the first week of November.  Both had pretty steady climbs right through November and December, with 1967-1968 getting to around 40” for the holiday period, and 1968-1969 hitting a very robust 6+ feet of snowpack for the holidays.  I guess that shouldn’t be too surprising, as that was just the start of a season that would become legend.

The star at Nov 18th is 1965-1966, and the progression looks sort of like 1967-1968.  That’s quite a 4-year stretch of good early seasons from ’65-’66 to ’68-’69 with those three solid starts.

The star at Nov 16th is 1980-1981.  That season is interesting in that the snowpack started building on Oct 20th and sailed right into November without ever going back to zero.  Snowpack was 4+ feet for the holidays, but the rest of the season looks modest (relatively speaking) with the snowpack depth never getting above 6 feet.

The star on Nov 14th is for something more recent:  2003-2004.  I was out in Montana for that one, but snowpack started building in the second week of November, it was 4+ feet at the holidays, and hit the 100” mark in March.

The star on Nov 13th is for 1976-1977.  That looks like an impressive start, with snowpack taking hold in the second half of October, climbing right through November, and hitting roughly the 4-foot mark for the holidays.  The stake didn’t quite top out at 100” that season, but it did pretty well topping out at 94”.

The final early star I haven’t mentioned yet is the one on Nov 11th, that’s for the 1990-1991 season.  It seems like the only other boom and bust start to go with Mr. October (2006-2007).  There was a little inkling of snow at the end of October and start of November, but snowpack started building at the end of the first week of the month and topped out at a very impressive 45” on Nov 14th!  It was a downhill slide after that though.  The snowpack never went lower than 9” but there were only 12-18” on the ground for the holiday period, and on Dec 30th it dropped from 18” to 13”, so that must have been quite a dagger in the holiday week (I guess that depends on whether it was a nice spring skiing day or a nasty rainstorm).  The rest of that season seemed pretty blasé because the snowpack never even hit 5 feet.  I don’t recall much about that season, but I’m assuming there was nothing too remarkable.

The November 2018 Mt. Mansfield snow depth data are below – note that there are a few days with no depth data available:

Date                 Depth
11/1/2018        2
11/2/2018        1
11/3/2018        4
11/4/2018        4
11/5/2018        4
11/6/2018        3
11/7/2018        0
11/8/2018        3
11/9/2018        1
11/10/2018      7
11/11/2018      8
11/12/2018      8
11/13/2018     
11/14/2018      14
11/15/2018     
11/16/2018      19
11/17/2018     
11/18/2018     
11/19/2018      20
11/20/2018      21
11/21/2018      23
11/22/2018      23
11/23/2018      23
11/24/2018      20
11/25/2018      19
11/26/2018      19
11/27/2018      32
11/28/2018      43
11/29/2018      46
11/30/2018      44

Stowe, VT 14MAY2019

An image showing the snow line on Mt. Mansfield at the start of a ski tour in mid-May at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image of some ski trails signs in the Nosedive area with fresh snow during a May ski tour at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Today was quite the snowy day in the local mountains as I got out for a ski tour in the fresh May powder on Mt. Mansfield.

It turns out that we likely get a substantial May snowstorm here in the Northern Greens about every other year on average.  It probably feels like May snowstorms are rarer than that, maybe because, well… it’s May.  By this point in the season it typically hasn’t snowed in a few weeks, we’ve had some warm weather, Memorial Day is approaching, and people are well along into thinking about spring and summer.  But I felt as though I’d been out on fresh snow several times in May since we’ve been back in Vermont over the past decade or so, and being curious about the actual numbers during the lead up to our current storm, I checked my ski report archives to see.  Indeed, with today’s storm that makes at least five significant May snowstorms in the past decade.  Here in the Northern Greens we also don’t catch the brunt of every May snowstorm that hits the Northeast, especially with the Presidentials in the mix, so I suspect that for the region as a whole the frequency of May snowstorms averages out to somewhere around a storm each season.

“…we likely get a substantial May snowstorm here in the Northern Greens about every other year on average.”

Whatever the actual frequency is for these May snowstorms, we’ve got one going on now.  We’ve been monitoring the potential of this current storm for several days in the New England forum at American Weather, and the mountain snowfall was well under way last night.  That meant that this morning was time to get a sense for what happened where and decide on a good location for some turns.  After checking out the accumulations on the various mountain webcams this morning, I decided to head to Mt. Mansfield for a ski tour.  I hadn’t seen any obvious differences in accumulations at the various resorts from the webcams, so I opted for Stowe because they seemed to have the most substantial existing snowpack right down to the base elevations.

An image showing a dusting of May snow at an elevation of 1,300 feet near the base of the Toll House chairlift at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
As I approached the mountain today, the first signs of fresh snow were at around 1,300′ just above the base of the Toll House Lift.

As expected, it was a cool, borderline wintry morning as I made my way to the mountain.  Temperatures were in the upper-30s F in the mountain valleys, and mid-30s F at the resort base.  I’d seen on Stowe’s web cams that the North Slope area had its typical late season residual snowpack, so I chose that for my ascent route.  By the time I got out on my tour, the snow level was certainly rising relative to its lowest point overnight or this morning when there were more optimal temperatures and snowfall rates.  New snow accumulations varied considerably depending on the underlying surface, with the best accumulations and retention found atop the existing snowpack.

“The amount of dense snow up high meant that you had plenty of cushion for some nice powder turns.”

Continuing up from the North Slope area, I headed through the Fourrunner Quad Summit and up the Toll Road past the Mt. Mansfield Stake to the Mansfield Summit Station at around 3,850’.  Precipitation was snow at all elevations on my ascent, and it was fairly light for the most part until I got to the Summit Station along the Mansfield ridgeline.  While I was hanging out there refueling and changing over for the descent, the intensity of the snowfall ramped up somewhat, with lots of tiny flakes at first.  Eventually though, the snowfall picked up to a pounding of much larger flakes.  There was definitely a lot of liquid coming out of the sky at that point, and my Gore-Tex® was getting a workout.

An image showing the Mt. Mansfield snow stake area during a May snowstorm near Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Stopping for a look at the healthy snowpack still present at the Mt. Mansfield stake as I pass by during today’s ski tour

Observing the new snow accumulations along my ascent, the big jump in depths really seemed to happen between 2,000’ and 3,000’.  Above 3,000’ I didn’t really see too much with respect to additional accumulation, so presumably temperatures were sufficient down to 3,000’ to maximize the snow from the available moisture right from the get go yesterday.

Here’s the elevation profile for the accumulations I found this morning:

500’:  0”
1,000’:  0”
1,300’:  T
1,500’: ½”
2,000’:  1”
2,300’:  3-4”
2,500’:  5”
2,700’:  6”
3,000’:  7-8”
3,500’:  8”
3,850’:  8”

An image showing the Summit Station/Visitor Center atop Mt. Mansfield in Vermont during a May snowstorm
Snowfall picked up when I was on the Mt. Mansfield ridgeline by the Visitor Center today, with huge flakes and reduced visibility for a time.

The amount of dense snow up high meant that you had plenty of cushion for some nice powder turns.  Of course, the density also meant that the snow was Sierra Cement/Cascade Concrete and you had your work cut out for you with respect to getting those powder turns.  I had my midfat Telemark skis, and let’s just say that the Tele turns in today’s snow were a lot of work.  It is mid-May though, so even dense powder turns this time of year are always a treat, and getting the workout is a big part of the experience anyway.

“…you had your work cut out for you with respect to getting those powder turns. I had my midfat Telemark skis, and let’s just say that the Tele turns in today’s snow were a LOT of work.”

In some cases it wasn’t just the descent that added an extra challenge due to the dense snow.  I followed a pair of skin tracks on my ascent and noticed that in some spots the new snow had stuck to their skins.  I wasn’t having that issue with my skins, but I eventually caught up to the gentlemen who were making the skin tracks, and they said for them it was an issue when they traveled over areas without an existing snowpack.  I was able to pay them back for their helpful skin track by setting the track for the second half of the ascent, and while I didn’t see them on the descent, I saw them back at my car and at Edelweiss Deli where I grabbed a sub for lunch (great minds think alike) and it sounds like they had a great tour.

Wintry conditions in May are typically quite ephemeral, so I guess we’ll be back to spring skiing soon, but these late season powder days are always a treat.  There’s a certain mystique with these late season elevation snow event because it feels like you were in another world when you get back to the strong sun, spring warmth, and rapidly emerging greenery in the valleys.

Stowe, VT 28APR2019

An image snowing some of the snow cats from Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont assembled above the Midway Lodge
An image of ski tracks in powder snow on the Perry Merrill trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont after a late April snowfall
A little more snow overnight topped off the accumulations from yesterday to produce some nice turns starting at around 3,000′ at Stowe today.

This weekend we took advantage of the great off-season rates and stayed slope side at the Stowe Mountain Lodge, which I learned has now been renamed “The Lodge at Spruce Peak”.  My sister and her family were in the area and staying at the Lodge for a couple of days, so this gave us a chance to catch up with them as well stay right by the slopes for some easy access to skiing on Mt. Mansfield.

Over the past couple of days we’ve had a storm in the area that’s been dropping some fresh snow in the higher elevations, and my ski tour at Bolton Valley yesterday revealed 4 to 6 inches of fresh, dense powder up around the 3,000’ mark.  Powderfreak reported similar accumulations in the upper elevations during his tour at Stowe yesterday, and images of the powder skiing looked quite decent, so that bode well with respect to getting in some good turns in association with our visit to the Lodge.  While there was expected to be a lull in the snowfall on Saturday afternoon, the forecast suggested that it would pick back up in the evening with the chance to tack on some additional accumulations as well.

An image of people in one of the hot tubs by the pool at the Lodge at Spruce Peak at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Erica, Jill, and the kids out for time in the hot tub and pool on Saturday afternoon/evening.

We arrived at the Lodge yesterday afternoon, dropped off the car, and then got settled into our room while we caught up with my sister’s family.  This time we tried out one of the one bedroom suites, similar to what we’ve had in the past at places like the Tram Haus Lodge.  It’s definitely nice to have a bit more space and the multiple rooms, especially now that the boys are older (and bigger).  The additional space was also convenient for when my sister’s family came over to visit.  During the evening we generally relaxed, the kids headed to the pool/hot tub area for a bit, and we all had a great dinner at the Hourglass Lounge.  There was snowfall all the way down to the base elevations in the evening, and as we had dinner we’d occasionally see windy whiteouts from all the blowing snow.  It looked quite wintry, but temperatures were fairly marginal at the base elevations, so there was really only a trace of accumulation visible by morning.

I was the only one planning to ski today, so after we checked out of our room and had breakfast at Solstice, E and the boys dropped me off at the Midway Lodge.  There were probably two to three dozen cars in the Midway parking lots, and people were heading out from there for ski tours along various routes.  Chin Clip Runout looked pretty quiet, and it, along with Switchback is one of my favorite ascent routes, so I headed that way and started skinning.

An image of rime ice on some branches high on Mt. Mansfield near Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont after a late April snowstormOn my ascent, I observed that additional snow accumulations seemed rather minimal below about 2,500’ – there was a windswept inch or two that was really scattered around atop the old base, and much of that was probably there from Saturday’s snow.  The new snow had collected in pockets here and there, but I didn’t really see any substantial consistency until I started getting into the upper half of the terrain.  Around the 3,000’ mark I started getting some solid 6 to 7 inch depths of reasonably dense, dry snow along the climber’s right of Perry Merrill.  I saw some folks continue their ascents up above the Gondola into the alpine via Cliff Trail Gully, but I was a bit leery of what coverage would be like with the new snow over previous melting among the rocks.  If the new snow depths continued to increase above the 3,600’ range then it could have been quite nice up there.

“The deepest accumulations I found were up around 3,500’ along the skier’s right of Perry Merrill, where 7 to 9 inches was pretty typical in undisturbed areas.”

Being underwhelmed by the accumulations I’d seen on my ascent of the main Gondi terrain, I headed toward Cliff Trail for my descent.  The deepest accumulations I found were up around 3,500’ along the skier’s right of Perry Merrill, where 7 to 9 inches was pretty typical in undisturbed areas.  That was really nice, and while the depth gradually decreased as I headed down Cliff Trail, the skiing there was quite good throughout.  There were a few tracks on the trail, but only a handful of skiers had been down at that point.  I’d say that the junction with Nosedive at around 2,700’ was right about where the best snow petered out.  The elevation was part of it, but the change to Nosedive with its more open nature and higher levels of skier traffic made for a very obvious break in the availability of the new snow.  That would have been an excellent spot to stop a descent if one was looking to lap the best snow up high.

An image of ski tracks in powder snow along the edge of the Perry Merrill trail up near 3,500 feet on Mt. Mansfield at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont after a late April snowfall
Catching some nice powder turns off the side of Perry Merrill up around 3,500′

We’ve got some fairly cool days coming over the next week, so the new snow should stick around for a while up high, although the quality may deteriorate somewhat from the typical spring temperature cycling.

Bolton Valley, VT 27APR2019

An image of the Mid Mountain Double Chairlift at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont after a late April snowfall
An image of new snow on evergreens during a late April storm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
I found a good 4 to 6 inches of fresh snow up in the 3,000′ elevation range today at Bolton Valley thanks to the storm that’s currently affecting the area.

After watching it snow all morning on the Bolton Valley Web cam, I decided to head up for a ski tour around midday to see how the new snow was settling in over the old snowpack.  Similar to our house, the precipitation was rain and there was no snow at the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road, but driving up I encountered residual winter snowpack starting at ~1,400’.  The rain changed over to snowfall right after that, around the Timberline Base at 1,500’.

I found a couple inches of new snow as I parked the car in the Bolton Valley Village around 2,000’, and that depth only increased slowly to roughly 3 inches at the 2,500’ level.  I noticed a bit of a jump in depths when I hit the 2,600’ to 2,700’ range though, so that seemed to be a threshold of sorts for accumulations during this storm.  .

Here’s the new snow depth profile with respect to elevation based on my observations from today’s tour:

340’:  0”
1,000’:  0”
1,500’:  T-1”
2,000’:  2”
2,500’:  3”
3,000’:  4-6”

“…with the dense snow there were actually plenty of nice bottomless turns available out there.”

On the ascent I was a bit worried that the snow was going to be sticky with respect to turns, but the temperature up top around 3,000’ was roughly 30 to 31 F.  So it was certainly below freezing up there, and the new snow was dense, but definitely dry enough for some nice powder turns.  I only found sticky snow to be an issue during the final couple hundred feet of descent to the main base area at 2,100’.  I made my initial descent down Alta Vista, then worked my way over toward Wilderness, and with the dense snow there were actually plenty of nice bottomless turns available out there.  Powderfreak reported some nice turns today at Stowe as well, and he found similar accumulations to what I encountered on my Bolton Valley tour.

An image of a brook with fresh snow along the edges during a late April snowstorm at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Fresh snow accumulations along one of the brooks flowing with spring meltwater in the Wilderness area on today’s ski tour

The models and forecasts suggest that after a lull this afternoon, there’s a chance for more snow tonight into tomorrow as the back side of the system comes through.  We’re planning to stay at the Lodge at Spruce Peak tonight, so hopefully I’ll have a chance to head out for some turns on Mansfield tomorrow.

Bolton Valley, VT 13APR2019

An image of the Bolton Valley wind turbine with Lake Champlain and Whiteface Mountain taken from the Vista Peak Fire Tower at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of Dylan Telemark skiing in spring snow on the Spillway trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan ripping it up out there today on some of the excellent spring snow at Bolton Valley

Today seemed to be the better option for some sunny afternoon weather this weekend, so the family headed up to Bolton Valley for a bit of spring skiing.  Timberline, with its western-facing slopes and lower elevation, is starting to melt out in areas, but coverage on the main mountain is looking quite good.  Temperatures were into the 60s F, even up at the 2,000’ level, so there were no concerns about whether or not the snow would soften enough for good turns.

“We descended Spillway on the upper mountain, and it had some beautifully smooth corn snow that everyone seemed to enjoy. E commented that the snow was some of the best she can recall in quite a while with regard to spring touring.”

There were several cars in the upper lot near the main base lodge, and it was obvious that most of them belonged to people who were out ski touring because you could seem them coming and going with their gear as they enjoyed the beautiful sunny afternoon.  Our goal for today’s tour was to head up to the Vista Summit, and the boys rocketed right off ahead of us as we ascended Beech Seal.  They didn’t pull any punches, and went right up in the Hard Luck area to get to the summit as fast as they could.  That’s a pretty steep approach, but they told me they did put in some switchbacks.  E and I headed over a couple of trails and took Schuss to Alta Vista, which makes for a more reasonable grade overall.  At the summit we all paid a visit to the Vista Peak Fire Tower, and while it was still relatively warm, the wind was certainly blowing strong.

An image of Jay Telemark skiing in spring snow on the Spillway trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Jay enjoying some of the smooth, steep turns today on Spillway

We descended Spillway on the upper mountain, and it had some beautifully smooth corn snow that everyone seemed to enjoy.  E commented that the snow was some of the best she can recall in quite a while with regard to spring touring.  Temperatures today were just right for the state of the snowpack to soften up an inch or two of the corn snow without getting too far into the base.  The fact that there hasn’t been much skier traffic on the mountain also helped to make for such smooth surfaces.

An image of ski racks stacked up behind the main base lodge at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
The off-season period is definitely beginning with ski racks stacked up behind the base lodge.

It looks like the mountains could have a bit of fresh snow coming on Monday night into Tuesday, but longer term we’ll hopefully have several more weeks of spring skiing to enjoy.

Bolton Valley, VT 07APR2019

An image of some bumper stickers on a car in the Timberline parking lot at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A spring image from the mid station of the Timberline Quad Chair at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Spring at the Timberline Mid Station

I haven’t been out for any turns since our Bruce Trail trip at Stowe on the 24th because we’ve been in one of those periods of spring weather doldrums. There haven’t been any substantial winter storm in the area, but we also haven’t had any of those obviously warm and sunny days that really soften up the snow.  Today was warm enough to tempt me out for some turns at Bolton Valley though.

We were relatively cool and cloudy at our house in the valley, but I saw that temperatures had already climbed above 40 F at the weather station alongside Sure Shot by late morning, so I headed up to Timberline.  Temperatures were warm enough to soften the snow from top to bottom on Timberline, and the best turns I found were on snowmaking terrain that had seen skier traffic.  In those areas, the snow had seen sufficient temperature cycling combined with compaction and manipulation that it was granulating to reasonable spring corn snow.  In other areas though, the snow was less consolidated, and recent spring accumulations added to make it a bit sticky.  It was still serviceable snow in terms of skiing, and a lot of people were skiing the trees, but it certainly wasn’t the premium surface that I was finding on the groomed terrain.

An image of a man with a monoski walking through the Timberline parking lot at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Timberline parking lot

Today was Bolton’s last official day of lift-served skiing, but we’ve got more potential snow in the forecast this week, and the weather models indicate additional storms beyond that.  So, we’ll hopefully have plenty of good long run of spring skiing as we head farther into April and May.

Bolton Valley, VT 23MAR2019

An image of mailboxes near Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont covered in spring snow after a big spring snowstorm hit the area
An image of Dylan skiing in powder at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Although our latest round of snow was rather dense, that helped it cover everything in the mountain and put down a solid resurfacing of the slopes. It may not have been the most “champagne” of powder, but it certainly skied nicely.

Well ahead of our current winter storm, the weather models were predicting it to be quite a whopper of a system.  Multiple upper-level lows were expected to consolidate over the area, then a low pressure center would move up the coast and into Northern Maine before finally departing.  Low pressure systems in that area are in a very sweet spot for our local mountains, since it’s excellent positioning to allow Atlantic moisture to be grabbed and wrapped around to the north until it slams into the Green Mountain Spine.  It wasn’t surprising that storm totals were expected to approach 30 inches in the mountains.  Indeed the local peaks got pounded with snow yesterday and overnight, and when the reports came in this morning, storm totals reached and even exceeded 30 inches.

A car covered in dense spring snow on the Bolton Valley Access Road near Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
What a spring storm! – a snow-covered car along the Bolton Valley Access Road tells the tale.

Our plan was to head up to Bolton for some turns today, but all the lifts were initially on wind hold except the Mighty Mite, so we packed Tele and alpine gear and were all set to skin at Timberline until they started running things.  By midmorning though, the resort was announcing openings of the Mid Mountain Chair and the Timberline Quad, so we’d be able to start lift-served skiing once we got there.  Unfortunately, they were still plowing out the Timberline parking lot and asking people to park up at the main base.  This meant connecting over from the main base to ski Timberline, however the Snowflake Chair, which is the best way to connect over, was down for maintenance.  This made for a big line at the Mid Mountain Chair, and that connection still requires a short hike anyway, so we made the hike up Villager to get over to Timberline.  We chatted with a patroller coming down Villager, and he wasn’t thrilled about our hike because it wasn’t a designated uphill route, but he understood under the circumstances.  He just reminded us to stay to side, well out of the way of any resort vehicles that might be using the trail.  It’s not really a long hike, but it did have the benefit that we got in some of our cardio today even though we didn’t end up skinning.

An image of skiers and snowboarders hiking up the Villager trail at Bolton Valley in Vermont
Wind holds on various lifts at the mountain today made it challenging to get from the main base over to Timberline, so many folks made the trip up the Villager trail to get there.

“Indeed the local peaks got pounded with snow yesterday and overnight, and when the reports came in this morning, storm totals reached and even exceeded 30 inches.”

In terms of the skiing, I’d say that the quantity of the new snow was absolutely there – it was a fantastic resurfacing and the groomed slopes were skiing as beautifully as one could imagine.  The powder skiing definitely left something to be desired relative to our typical off piste conditions from a storm though.  The snow was quite dense, and often windblown.  We found that the trees offered some protection from the winds, so we typically got our highest quality turns there, but it was still Sierra Cement/Cascade Concrete type stuff and it would toss you around easily if you weren’t on your game or as it became more chopped up.  It actually looked like a nice day to be on a snowboard with the dense snow.  The skiing was still awesome of course, but it was just surprising that the backside champagne never developed enough to set the impressively right-side-up turns we’d anticipated.  Presumably the parameters for optimal snow growth didn’t come together everywhere as the storm was finishing up

In related news, this storm pushed the snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield stake past 10 feet, so the snowpack in the mountains is in great shape as we continue into spring.

Stowe, VT 17MAR2019

An image of Molly riding her snowboard in the Inspiration/Adventure Triple Chair area at Stowe Mountian Resort in Vermont after some back side snow from Winter Storm Ulmer
An image of Dylan snowboardinig in powder from the back side of Winter Storm Ulmer in the Toll House Trees at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Thanks to some fresh snow from the back side of Winter Storm Ulmer, we were able to get in some powder boarding today at Stowe during our BJAMS ski program session.

Spring made some inroads around here at the end of the week, with temperatures reaching well up into the 40s F to finally prompt some melting/softening of the snowpack.  In typical spring fashion, when the  temperature dropped back down yesterday, it apparently made for some tough conditions on the slopes.

Those sort of temperature swings are a normal part of the cycle as we get into spring, but I wasn’t really looking forward to having to get out on that snow for today’s BJAMS ski program session – especially due to the fact that I was going to be on a snowboard.  Snowboards have plenty of issues, but dealing with them on icy surfaces is one of the worst.  Thankfully, Mother Nature had one of those “Northern Greens surprise refreshers” in her pocket.  It wasn’t entirely a surprise that we were going to get a bit of snow overnight last night, but it came in more robustly that we were expecting.  I looked outside last night around 10:00 P.M. to find that we’d already picked up over an inch of snow, and in the Northern New England thread at the American Weather Discussion Forum, Powderfreak indicated that it had been snowing for about 30 to 45 minutes.  We’d picked up 1.6 inches of new snow at the house by 11:00 P.M., and a similar amount had fallen by the time I headed off to bed a bit later.

“I found several inches of new snow and bottomless turns along the trees to the skier’s right of Upper Meadows on my snowboard, so things were definitely looking up.”

This morning revealed a storm total of 3.3 inches of snow at the house, and 4 to 5 inches at the local resorts of the Northern Greens.  We were eager to find out how well the new snow had covered up the old base as we headed off to out afternoon session at Stowe, so as soon as I’d grouped up with Molly and Dylan, we took a quick run off the Meadows Quad to get a sense for the conditions.  I found several inches of new snow and bottomless turns along the trees to the skier’s right of Upper Meadows on my snowboard, so things were definitely looking up.  I could see that snow options must have been pretty nice in the morning when the trails were relatively untracked, but there was definitely enough snow for use to head over to the Toll House terrain and surf some of the new powder on the boards.

An image of Erica snowboarding in powder in the Toll House area at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Erica catching some powder turns in the Toll House area this afternoon

E was potentially going to join us on her snowboard once she’d taken care of ensuring everyone was in their ski groups, so our group picked up Molly’s friend Julia on her skis and did a quick run off the Adventure Triple to take in some of the powder that remained below the lift.  We all got together with E, and immediately made our way over to the Mountain Triple Chair on Mansfield to take in what we hoped to be a nice long run full of surfy powder turns down to the base of the Toll House Lift.  I was a little leery of brining everyone into the Sunrise Glades because I wasn’t sure about their comfort level in the trees on their boards, but once we got past the Stowe Mountain Chapel and could see all the untracked powder in the various Toll House trees, everyone just dove right into the woods.  There were a good 3 to 5 inches of powder with few if any tracks, and with that amount of cushion, I had no concerns about people’s ability to make turns or experience the tumbles we would all inevitable take.  We rode the usual assortment of trees down much of the length of Toll House, and everyone had a great time surfing their way along.  The moderate pitches there were just what the doctor ordered for the amount of powder we had available, and the exploration and practice riding in the trees made the experience a huge hit.  We wouldn’t have been in there riding that fresh powder if it hadn’t been for the overnight snow.

An image of some of the trails on Mt. Mansfield from the Toll House Chairlift at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
The classic view of trails wiggling their way down Mt. Mansfield as viewed from Stowe’s Toll House Chairlift

We worked our way back to the Spruce Peak Village to end the day with a food break, and another one of my old straps on my snowboard broke, so that made for an adventurous return trip.  I really do need to invest in some new bindings since mine are 20+ years old and the plastic is obviously getting brittle.  Perhaps I’ll find an end of the season deal on something.  I wouldn’t mind some of those Burton Step On® bindings – I’m so sick of dealing with those snowboard binding buckles, especially my broken ones!